British egg producers are to mount a legal challenge to the government’s failure to ban imports of illegally-produced battery cage eggs and egg products.
The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) has taken the first step towards launching judicial review proceedings by writing to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). It has asked the department for a fuller explanation of the government’s decision not to ban the imports.
“The BEIC’s legal advice is that the government has incorrectly interpreted the law and it believes that the government must not condone the importation of illegal battery cage eggs and egg products into the UK,” according to a council statement.
The BEIC wants government to conduct proper checks of imported eggs, egg products and products containing eggs entering UK ports, egg packing stations, processing plants, importers and wholesalers.
Andrew Parker, BBIC chairman said: “British egg producers have invested heavily to meet their legal obligations and improve animal welfare. We now need our government to support them by preventing unfair competition from producers in other countries who have not complied with the ban.”
British egg producers have invested £400M on phasing out barren battery cages, to meet the requirements of EU legislation which came into force on 1 January 2012. All British Lion cage eggs now come from new, enriched colony cages.
Egg producers in 13 EU countries, including Spain, Italy and Poland, have not fully complied with the ban, said the BEIC. About one-quarter of EU cage egg production is now illegal, with more than 50M hens still being kept in barren battery cages, producing more than 40M eggs a day, it added.
A DEFRA spokesperson said: “Given the very significant legal and financial implications of introducing such a ban, coupled with practical difficulties in enforcing it, it is not a realistic option. To protect consumers from buying eggs from battery cages we have worked closely with the major food processors and retailers who have agreed not to supply these eggs or use them in their own foods.”